“Note well, and follow the patterns for them that are being shown you on the mountain.”
Parashat T’rumah introduces the many detailed instructions for building the mishkan, or Tabernacle. God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “…Make me a mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham, a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” (Ex. 25:8) The classic commentators understand God doesn’t actually live in the mishkan. They seize upon the plural nature of b’tocham, among them, to view the mishkan as a symbol of God’s presence within the Israelite community.
Zev Wolf of Zhitomir (?-1797; an important leader in the early years of the Chassidic movement) interprets this verse a little differently. He notices b’tocham can also mean “within them” (rather than among them). Read this way, when God says, ”Build me a sanctuary…” it means develop yourself into a sanctuary: make your heart a fitting place for my presence. God is asking to live within each individual Israelite, not merely within the Israelite community. Suddenly, God’s presence is much more “up close and personal.”
Rabbi Meir Leibush Weiser (1809-1879; master of Hebrew grammar, and Bible commentator ) says T’rumah’s opening verse, “Speak to the children of Israel, that they should take a t’rumah, a gift for me, from every person whose heart moves him…” (Ex. 25:2) provides the method for becoming a sanctuary: spontaneous generosity. Tz’dakah is obligatory giving. A t’rumah is an uplifting gift not because of the amount, or even the material proffered. Rather, it is the energy of the response and the utter voluntary “givingness” of it that matters. Cultivating spontaneous generosity and orienting your heart to the needs of others opens up that space, that sanctuary, for God within you.
Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom